A full day trip from Valparaiso is the hike up Cerro la Campana. Darwin made the trip up in 1834 and declared it one of the highlights of his journey. It's a 3-4 hour, reasonably tough but non-technical hike up to the top where you will be rewarded with incredible views of the Andes (including Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas) on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. Quite spectacular.
Take 2-3 litres of water, some snacks, and get there early - 9am at the latest to ensure you're first to the top. Around 8.30am the ranger will turn up and sign you in. You cannot start the climb after 10am.
Sector Granizo just past Olmue, 45 minutes drive from Valparaiso
More info and photos: corrugatedcity.blogspot.com/2008/04/cerro-la-campana-ii.html and corrugatedcity.blogspot.com/2008/04/cerro-la-campana.html
If you want a real sense of Valparaiso's international roots, visit the three cemeteries on Cerro Panteon - Number 1, 2 and the Dissidents' Cemetery are full of British, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese and other nationalities' tombs... all with beautiful sea views. A fascinating look at the history of South America's most unique city.
Cerro Panteon - from plaza Anibal Pinto take Subida Cumming and walk up.
More info: corrugatedcity.blogspot.com/search/label/Cemeteries
Every new year, Valpo is home to the biggest and best fireworks display in South America.
Over a million people from Chile and abroad descend on the city for one huge party. Hotels need to be booked by October at the latest (prices 3-5 times normal) and reconfirmed at least 3-4 times in December to ensure they're honoured.
The fireworks used to be only in Valparaiso but now stretch 20-30km all the way along the cost to Con Con. The display lasts almost half an hour.
The best place to watch them is on Cerro Concepcion and Alegre where the police are out in force making it the safest area to be.
All over Valpo
Ok, this is actually in Vina del Mar, Valpo's more modern sister city a ten-minute drive up the road. However, Cerro Castillo is a must visit for anyone interested in the history of this part of Chile.
The area is known as Cerro Castillo because:
-it's a hill
-there are numerous old houses built like castles
It's a quiet residential area - no cafes, no restaurants, no toilets - but is Vina's poshest address. Some of the houses are spectacular -tudor houses nestle next to gothic mansions and there are the eponymous castles dotted around the place, the most notable being the local police HQ. The Presidential Palace is also to be found on Cerro Castillo.
It was on Cerro Castillo that Chile's wealthiest families from Santiago and Valparaiso had their seaside residences in the country's most elite Balneario. It shows in the architecture.
At the foot of the hill is the Club Arabe-Siria and opposite is the Castillo Wulf, now the town council. Also just around the corner is the Cap Ducal, a restaurant and hotel right on the water and shaped like a cruise liner.
The new Sheraton is also at the foot of the hill.
From the new Sheraton or Castillo Wulf and Cap Ducal there are steps or a road leading up to the hill. From the other side, there's access from the beginning of Calle Valparaiso.
Valparaiso is a city designed for exploring on foot, albeit feet wrapped in sturdy shoes. Its winding roads, beautiful little alleyways and stunning views await the intrepid explorer.
The Sendero Bicentenario is a self-guided walking tour of the entire city.
The easiest and most popular part of the tour is around Cerros Concepcion and Alegre - the ex-British and German enclaves with the city's finest architecture, hotels and restaurants - but it's well worth exploring other parts of town as well.
You'll be treated to incredible views of the city and the ocean at pretty much every turn.
You should be careful not to wave around expensive cameras in some areas, especially behind the Matriz Church, but overall the city is safe and welcoming.
Chilean Naval museum with some interesting exhibits, a bit OTT nationalistic at times but aren't most military museums like that?
The scale models of the ships are cool and the building itself is quite interesting.
It costs about 50p to get in.
Cerro Artlilleria at the top of the Acsensor of the same name. Avoid the restaurant at the top of the funicular-not good...
For 1000 pesos (£1) you can take a 30-minute boat trip around the harbour. On sunny days, you get beautiful views back to the city and the hills.
You also get about as close to a fully functional port as you will anywhere in the world and get to see a dry dock and the local battle ships up close and personal. If you're lucky, you'll see sea-lions sunning themselves on the decks of fishing boats that they have commandeered. For 10,000 pesos (£10) you can hire a whole boat for yourselves.
Muelle Prat, down by Plaza Sotomayor
The best chefs in Chile are Peruvian and Peruvian restaurants can be found all over the country. One of the best in Santiago is Puerto Peru, on the corner of Condell and Santa Isabel (border Providencia/Nunoa).
The Pulpo al Olivar (octopus with black olive dressing) is divine and the Seco de Cordero is excellent as well. Most items on the menu are very good and the Pisco Sours are some of the best in Santiago.
Some mid-range options for the wannabe rich or sensible spenders:
The Hotel Ultramar is slightly cheaper than some boutique hotels. It's a bit further out of the way of all the fun, high up on Cerro Carcel but the views are simply spectacular and the hotel is really well run. From 30,000 to 90,000 pesos a room.
Allegretto just scrapes in at mid-range. Just opened and run by the owner of the excellent Allegretto Pizza restaurant I haven't actually seen the inside of the place but it looks ok from the photos. 30,000 pesos a double and they have a dorm as well.
I also have some low-range suggestions for people who think spending a fortune on accommodation is folly.
There are a couple of hostels on Cerro Concepion. The first is Hostal Pilcomayo on the corner of Pilcomayo and Templeman and the other is Casa Aventura which is on the corner of Urriola and Pasaje Galvez. No idea what they charge but I expect it'd be on the range of 5-8000 pesos per person for a dorm bed.
There are lots more hotels and many B&Bs and homestays around, especially on Cerros Alegre and Concepcion. Those mentioned are just the ones that come to mind and/or that I’ve personally visited.
For the Ricky Ricones out there then I'd suggest one of the following three boutique hotels:
The Hotel Gervasoni. This hotel is probably one of the best private renovation jobs I've seen anywhere and is really well positioned at the end of the Paseo Gervasoni, next to the Lukas museum and the top of the Ascensor Turri/Concepcion all on Cerro Concepcion.
The owners spent a small fortune restoring the old mansion and did a hell of a job. Original details were delicately recovered and pricey antiques dot the place alongside more modern touches. It has a great terrace with views of the port and bay for drinkies and a restaurant below with some seriously good wines in the cellar. I haven't been to review the restaurant yet though.
A double costs around 85,000 pesos (us$160) a night.
Another boutique establishment, The Manoir Atkinson is around the corner at the end of Paseo Atkinson. Rooms are about the same price but I think the Gervasoni's a much better bet. The roof terrace in the Atkinson is pretty cool though.
Trumping them all for price is the Zero Hotel on Cerro Alegre. This place, on Valpo's most expensive street-Lautauro Rosas, opened just a few weeks ago. The house has been beautifully restored and decorated (not in the same original style like the Gervasoni though) and the views of the city and bay are pretty bleeding amazing. It has a whirlpool bath on the terrace. We met the manager went on a tour of the hotel. Mightily impressive. Mightily expensive as well for Valpo and Chile as a whole at around 140,000 pesos (us$270) a night for one of the 4 suites with views. Possibly worth it.
Le Filou de Montpellier: a Valpo institution on Cerro Alegre (corner Urriola and Alte Montt). Excellent value and excellent French food run by a son of Montpellier.
Get there early in the evening (Friday and Saturday only) or try to book ahead. Set lunches are cheap and very good.
Allegretto Pizza: Pilcomayo, opposite the Anglican Church. English-run Pizzeria, huge and very good thin crust pizzas, good music, local beer on tap.
Mastodonte: Esmeralda, just down from Plaza Anibal Pinto (downtown Valpo): Absurdly cheap and abundant meals (£1.30 for a huge plate of excellent stewed beef, rice and tomato salad), local beer on tap.
Bistro Cuisine et Vins: Papudo, opposite Hotel Gervasoni-excellent red meat (Argentine), well prepared food and extensive wine list. Pricey by local standards but probably worth it.
The local council in Valpo decided to increase the price of a ticket by 150% on the main access funicular lift to Cerro Concepcion, the most heavily visited area of the city by foreign and Chilean tourists.
The price hike is aimed squarely at tourists and there are many petitions being organised by local residents. If possible, do not use the lift and please sign any petition that might come your way.
You'll notice anti-increase posters in the windows of almost every home in the area. The council's decision is an embarrassment to the people who live in Valparaiso as price gouging is not something they want to be a part of.
Please read and please support the petition:
Send your feedback or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org